How can we maintain healthier lifestyles at work?

Carolyn Courage, CHRP

Carolyn Courage, CHRP

This blog post was written in response to the June 2013 Coffee Shop HR World Café topic: “How can we maintain healthier lifestyles at work?”

This is a great topic to talk about especially getting closer to summer. I work at a Chocolate Factory and the question always is “how do you all remain slim?” My answer to this that the way our building is we have to do a lot of walking around and stair climbing, company sponsored active lifestyle options and, of course, great quality chocolate daily.

Maintaining a healthy lifestyle at work is key to the success of a business and overall engagement levels. There are a few ideas I have seen over the years that seem to be successful.

Company sponsored physical activities are a great way to get involved in the community while living a healthy lifestyle. Paying for employees entry into the Sun Run or the BMO Marathon is one example. Creating a work team for events like these foster employee camaraderie excitement around the office and maybe some cross departmental team building too! There could be training sessions on their lunch break or running clubs after work or on the weekends.

A Company lunch program is another way to foster at healthy lifestyle. One company I visited recently had a great lunch program that most of their employees participate in it. A small fee comes off their pay check and it covers their daily lunches. The lunches are made in a cafeteria and are wonderfully healthy and are different every day. The cafeteria is also meeting place for employees to socialize.

Another company had a ‘biggest loser’ contest that lasted 6 months, complete with weigh-ins, healthy lunches and walking clubs. The employees formed teams and got points from the weight lost in the group. The winning team won a prize and notoriety!

There are lots of fun ways to incorporate a healthy lifestyle into your work place, and create employee engagement and comradery at the same time.

Internal Motivation Is Key to Maintaining a Healthy Lifestyle (And You Can’t Buy That)

Nicole Davidson

Nicole Davidson

This blog post was written in response to the June 2013 Coffee Shop HR World Café topic: “How can we maintain healthier lifestyles at work?”

Maintaining a healthy lifestyle for me has always been one of those ideals that I just can’t live up to. Even when I get the strong desire to exercise or eat healthy, it tends to pass fairly quickly; I can’t seem to translate that desire to execution. I’ve been thinking about it quite a bit lately, since I’m planning for my wedding in November. All of the sudden trying to achieve toned arms or eliminating the dreaded “back fat” have become bigger priorities- not that I have managed to do anything about either.

It’s even more pressing because of my new job. In my past work I spent far more time up and walking around, and work often left me physically as well as mentally exhausted. That is not the case with my current office job. Aside from walking to grab coffee from the other side of the building, I’ve become largely inactive. Worse, the mental (and occasionally emotional) exhaustion I feel when I get home feels like an impossible hurdle when considering going out to exercise. Even going grocery shopping feels like excessive physical exertion. Exercising before work is a non-starter; I have a hard enough time getting up each morning at 6am, and I’m certainly not willing to get up even earlier to torture myself with exercise.

Instead of focusing on exercise, I’m trying to focus on my diet. I bring fruit for snacks and pack my own lunch at least 4 days per week. I take my coffee black, though I feel as bitter about that as my coffee tastes. I tried using an app to track my calorie intake, but I found it firstly too time consuming and secondly deeply depressing. I dislike how calorie counting seems to lend itself naturally to a caloric obsession- it perpetuates a certain circular thinking that I very much dislike.

Basically I am at a loss. As I work for a relatively small company, the wellness program consists of a financial incentive for smokers to quit and a bike storage room- and there is no real interest from either staff or management to implement much more than that. To be honest, I’m not a big believer in formal wellness programs. There is a significant element to wellness that is internally motivated (see above) and I’m not sure that employers can do much to influence that. Further, certain wellness incentives can go significantly awry.

A friend of mine recently told me about a wellness initiative put on by her company. It was set up as a weight loss contest with weekly prizes as well as a grand prize at the end of a 6 month period. Unfortunately it significantly devolved to a group of participants whispering about each other’s lunch choices and openly criticizing each other’s exercise habits. One participant thought it would be fun to present the person who lost the least amount of weight each week with a blue ribbon that said “prized hog”. The contest was abruptly ended shortly after.

I think that the best an employer can do is put support systems in place for employees who do get the self-motivation to maintain a better lifestyle. Offering healthy options in vending machines, organizing voluntary healthy activities (such as a Sun Run team or monthly lunch time baseball games), and providing support for those who do exercise, like showers and bike rooms, are the best ways for employers to support healthy lifestyles. That way, when someone like me gets a hint of that elusive motivation, it’s not quite as difficult to implement.

Does a proper vacation require distancing yourself from the internet altogether?

I went to a music festival at The Gorge Amphitheatre in Washington last month called Sasquatch. It was four days of camping and concerts with friends. The Gorge is spectacular!  The acoustics are brilliant, and photos don`t do justice to the space`s natural beauty. Imagine how fun and uplifting it is to witness a concert with 30,000 other cheering fans of live music.

The Gorge Amphitheatre

Prior to attending Sasquatch, I had never been to The Gorge before. Being the social media addict that I am, I tried to find information online about accessing the internet during the festival.  In other words, I wanted to know if there would be free wi-fi.

Previous concert-goers at The Gorge explained that not only was the concept of free wi-fi laughable, but there was poor cell reception in the area. Before I left home, I made a point to announce to friends, family and work colleagues that I be inaccessible via social media, email, and cell phone in general.

What's the Wi-fi Password??My response to the realization that cell phone use wouldn’t be an option at The Gorge was eye-opening to say the least. Not only was I concerned (for whatever reason) that I wouldn’t be able to access the internet or use my cell, but I made a point to communicate that fact to friends and family.

I was shocked to realize this kind of behaviour within myself because when I go on vacation, I like to distance myself from my daily life altogether. Much as Vancouver, BC is naturally beautiful, I enjoy leaving town. I’m not a fan of the stay-cation because I prefer to be completely inaccessible when I’m on vacation.

I believe in turning your mind away from work during your personal time, whether you’re on a lunch break or out of town. Try to pay attention to how much you talk about work when you’re with your friends and family! When you speak about work outside of the workplace, you’re inviting work into your private life. Think about how much jargon and how many work-specific abbreviations you’ve introduce to your friends and family over the years. I bet you talk about work more than you think …

But no one’s perfect. I have a nasty habit of checking work emails, even when I’m out of country. I might not check them every day, and I might not respond to them unless they’re truly urgent, but the same is true – I check work emails (and occasionally respond) while I’m on vacation.

Self-awareness is important because it allows you to recognize where you are, and where you actually want yourself to be. Having said that, it’s particularly frightening to admit that I check work-related emails while on vacation because I am an entry-level employee. I’m not an HR Generalist, and I’m not an HR Manager. No staff report directly to me in my HR job. So what’s going to happen to my terrible little habit as my career grows?

Geraldine Sangalang, CHRP

Geraldine Sangalang, CHRP

I know that I won’t be working in an entry-level position forever, so how can I change my behaviour over time? I’m inclined to say that I can’t: I will probably continue checking work-related emails while I’m on vacation because of my personality. I can imagine that as I take on more complex projects and positions during my professional career, I’ll likely feel even more inclined to be available online and by phone while I’m away from the jobsite.

So I ask you: does a proper vacation require distancing yourself from the internet altogether?  Should you distance yourself from work-related communication 100% and how do you convince yourself to stay away from the internet while you’re on vacation?

My Struggle with Resume Writing

Jessica Lau

Jessica Lau

As I started to explore my career path and job search, like most other graduates are doing, I have encountered the struggle of creating the “great resume” despite my recruitment experience. It doesn’t matter if you hear about a job through your network or saw it online, you will need a great resume to showcase your experience, abilities and skills to your potential employers.

I began meeting HR professionals, attending different career planning workshops, reading recommended books and following different groups to gain some tips on job search and resume writing. This is where the interesting issue of “how to write a great and effective resume” began and a couple of questions came up. What is a great resume? What do HR professionals look for?

To begin, I have to say I really appreciate all the suggestions and tips given to me by people I’ve met and books I’ve read. I can’t begin to thank them enough for their time, advice and feedback. It’s just I’m really curious what is the general consent out there in regards to resume writing. I am pretty sure there are other job seekers encountering the same issue and struggling with creating a great resume.

Upon attending some workshops and readings, I learned that my resume needed a lot of revamping, which I was prepared for. I began my process of editing, which took weeks as I heard that my resume looked a bit like it was from a template. I was suggested to not use full sentences in my profile section of my resume, as recruiters and hiring individuals don’t have time to read sentences because they have to go through so many resumes. This makes sense. Instead, it was suggested to me to put key accomplishment statements in bullet forms under my profile section. All of my accomplishment statements need to identify the tasks along with answering the question “so what?” Ideally, if there are quantifiable figures, write them down. Sounds simple? Well, that is definitely not the case. As I also need to ensure each bullet statement to be as concise as possible; if it takes up more than two lines then it is too long but if it only takes up one line, it is likely missing something, possibly didn’t answer the “so what?”

Then I met other HR professionals who told me to leave some mystery in my accomplishment statements. At different occasions, I was told to leave out some information in my accomplishment statements so it attracts the recruiters and hiring individuals to wonder how those specific accomplishments were achieved. And I was told to write my profile like a brief biography to let recruiters and hiring individuals know who I am.

So now, a few months since I first began my resume editing, I am still in the process of creating a great resume. I guess what I learned through this process is that different HR professionals will look for and expect different things from a resume. There is no real “right” or “wrong” resume (well, to a certain extent); it really depends on the audience that’s reading your resume.

HR professionals and recruiters, do you have any tips for me and other job seekers on what you look for in a resume? What is your perspective of a great resume?

What to do with the office peacock and the dress-down dude

Gareth Cartman

Gareth Cartman

A recent post by Kris Dunn reminded me of a common, unspoken problem in the workplace – the way people dress. I’ve seen HR departments visibly twitch at the low-cut tops and short skirts worn by ambitious members of otherwise anonymous departments. Equally, I’ve seen them not bat an eyelid at the suddenly sharp-suited marketer who, just last week, was practically wearing pyjamas to work.

We have two main problems: the office peacock, and the dress-down dude. We have Victoria Beckham and The Big Lebowski in our workplaces, side by side, and we need a plan.

The office peacock

There’s a dress code, and there’s a dress code. One is written, the other is unspoken. One is a simple, gender-neutral statement of policy. The other is an unconscious reflection of the culture you’ve built (or are trying to destroy, you choose).

It often comes from the top. If the MD doesn’t wear a tie, the lack of neckwear filters down through the board, to line managers and beyond. An unspoken dress code relies on those little glances in an employee’s first week, which say “the suit is too much”, or “I need to iron my trousers”. Whichever.

An unspoken dress code relies on an employee’s need to fit in.

The office peacock, however, is trying not to fit in. There may be various reasons for this. He or she may be calling out for your attention, silently screaming “look at me, I could do with a promotion” or “I judge myself more important than everyone else”. It may be a conscious effort to underline his or her leadership credentials, but if it’s out of line – what can you do?

Well, not much. If it’s within the confines of the official dress code, then it’s no reason to haul someone into an office and give them a ticking off. A shiny suit does not a quarrel make. Equally, if someone turns up to work in a suit on a dress-down day, what can you do? You’re not the fun police. You do not exist solely to ensure that everyone wears jeans on a Friday. But note that behaviour, it’s not against policy but it’s kinda weird.

It is worthwhile, however, to ascertain the reasons behind the change in behaviour. Flag this up to the potentially unaware line manager, and attempt to find out whether there has been any conflict within the team, or any performance issues that may have influenced the snazzy dressing. Underlying issues within the team may have influenced this employee’s decision to break out from the constraints of the unspoken dress code and change peoples’ perceptions.

The dress-down dude

While the peacock may just have bought a new suit, the dress-down dude has ditched the suit for more casual attire. He may not have shaved, if it is a he… She may not have bothered with the usual lipstick. Very often, these are subtle signs… indications that the usual grooming has fallen by the wayside.

The signs are there, but what do they mean?

Firstly, there may be issues at home. After all, getting ready is a lengthy enough process, so new parents can be excused for dressing down a little. There may be other issues, such as financial or bereavement, and it’s down to the sensitivities of the line manager to discern whether there are external pressures on the employee. If you’ve not trained your line managers to pick up on these signs, then it’s all your fault. Sorry.

Secondly, and more importantly there may be work issues. The dress-down dude has often given up, and it’s important to distinguish between someone who has given up and someone who is under pressure. Someone who has given up is effectively working the longest notice period possible. They’re potentially searching for jobs, or they’ve just resigned themselves to the fact that they’re going nowhere in your organisation, in which case, you’re the one to make that call, not them. Can you get them back? Or do you do what they’ve done – and give up?

You have a couple of options – number 1, you make that call. You decide they’re not going anywhere, and you performance manage them, potentially performance managing them out. Number 2, you take a more holistic approach and tackle the underlying issues first. If the dress code is being broken then yes, tackle that, but by resolving those underlying issues, you could resolve the dress-down issue as a consequence.

Imagine that. HR gets sartorial.

Effective Planning for Social Events: Make Your Effort Count!

Nicole Davidson

Nicole Davidson

I’ve always had a bit of a flair for event management. Going back to my high school days, some of my favourite memories are of the time I spent as the Social Affairs Minister of our (appropriately Canadian) Student Cabinet. My role centered on planning and executing our three school dances per year, as well as organizing other various “spirit” activities. Event management happens to be one of the few areas where I feel I can be successfully creative while at the same time feeding my need to give things structure.  In my new role, one of my initial tasks has been to resurrect a long-dead social committee. Sitting in our first meeting the other day, I was struck by how many things can derail a social committee that starts out with the best of intentions.

One of the hardest things to deal with can be differing levels of commitment from committee members. It can be hard to find people who really are passionate about planning and organizing events. Often people who are outgoing are automatically considered as being people who would be good at coordinating events, but this is not often the case. Being a good event planner also involves being someone who has a good head for organization, pays close attention to detail, and is willing to deal with the many little frustrations which come up when attempting to please a large amount of people. In other words, the people who are the most fun at the party are not always the best people to plan a party.

An effective strategy I have found for dealing with this is to not expect every person to participate in every event. The leader of the committee should be listening to hear which events a member gets most excited about, and then facilitating to have that person take a lead on events that interest them. It’s also important to make sure that the same person is not the lead on subsequent events; leading two or more events in a row is a quick way to get to event-planning burnout.

Another common problem is the tendency to over-complicate things. Everyone wants to throw an awesome event, and often it seems that adding multiple small elements can create that “awesome”. In my experience however, keeping things simple (especially in execution) is essential to planning a successful event. Unless you are throwing something very large-scale, many of the tiny elements you’re working so hard for are destined to be lost in the shuffle. I remember for one Saint Patrick’s Day dance spending hours twisting more than a hundred sparkly green pipe cleaners into the shape of clovers to hang from fishing line in the dance entrance. This is a prime example of too much effort for too little effect.

The best way to avoid the “everything but the kitchen sink” approach is to set limits in the planning stage about what is and isn’t possible. Ask other members questions about how much time an idea might take to execute, and how many people might enjoy the idea (and for how long). Encourage members of the committee to think pragmatically about ideas from a cost-benefit perspective. If all else fails, defer to a strict budget to keep ideas in line.

A final, important complication is building buy-in from other employees. This is often one of the most neglected areas. A funny email or poster to remind people of an event can go a long way to encouraging them to participate. As well, every event will need at least one “champion” to talk up the event at least one week prior.  There is nothing worse than painstakingly planning an event that doesn’t turn out well because of a lack of interest. The reason for these events is to build employee engagement- if the event doesn’t resonate with your employees, the effort is being wasted. Plan your events well and make sure that your time and effort accomplishes what it sets out to do.

Navigating the CHRP Recertification

Carolyn Courage, CHRP

Carolyn Courage, CHRP

I am in the process of applying for recertification of my CHRP, a BC HR designation which stands for Certified HR Professional. I thought I would share some insight into what can be a daunting process. If you are not a BC reader, you can relate to this with your own professional designation I’m sure.

Every three years we have to apply for recertification by accumulating points over this same time. The alternative is re-writing the final exam which is not the preferred option for me anyway!

I was cautioned by the BC HRMA site and my Boss to keep track of my developmental activities (aka points) over the three years and not compile everything at the last moment. Sounds like a great idea doesn’t it? Well, life happens and the busy HR world and evolving career left little time to focus on my recertification which seemed in the distant future.

Well, the time is here. I kept a hard copy file of the receipts and records of all the courses and workshops I attended over the last three years, and kept a tracker going on my computer. However, BC HRMA changed the recertification log last year so ensure you have the correct version!

How does one meet the daunting quota of 100 points? If you are lucky enough to attend workshops and conferences do so. You get 1 point per hour. You also get points for reading HR books. Any committees you sit on, as well as regular round tables or peer groups also count for points. I work in Training and Development which helps as I gain points for every new program I create and additional points for the first time I facilitated.

It is good to keep track as you go to avoid the panic of trying to gain points at the last minute! Also aim for more than the 100 points required just in case some don’t count. Also, keep those receipts and records of workshops attended in case BC HRMA audits you.

I hope this helps you on your journey to ensure a smooth recertification time.